The Thriller Writer's Dilemma

I don't read all that much genre fiction, but it seems that a common approach among thriller writers is to make the plot-to-other-stuff ratio as high as reasonably possible, which implies that they spend very little time on characterization. This is understandable - if I want in-depth characterization developed over a few hundred pages, I'll read Proust - but does bring about a problem: If I don't get to know the characters, then I won't care about them, and if I don't care about them, well, then I won't be thrilled. Two points:

1. Thriller writers could learn a lot from Tom Wolfe. He's never written a thriller, but his books clearly show how to put living, breathing characters into a well-plotted story. That's the combination that makes you want to know what happens next.

2. If I remember correctly, screenwriter Syd Field recommends getting on with the action from page one ("the American way") instead of spending time on characterization ("the European way") in one of his textbooks. This approach works considerably better for films than for novels because in films we see and hear the characters, just like in real life, which makes us instantly form assumptions about them, just like in real life. In this respect, novel writing is more challenging than screenwriting.

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